Friday, March 28, 2014

Interacting with Vital Signs Ministries

World Vision Hits Reverse. But Is Their Apology Enough?

Igniting a furor among Evangelicals after Monday’s announcement accepting same sex unions by employees, the $1 billion relief group World Vision on Wednesday completely reversed itself and apologized for its “mistake.”

After a board meeting, World Vision’s president and board chair affirmed it will “revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.”

They added: “We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness” for neglecting World Vision’s “commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage” and belief in the Bible as the “inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”…

World Vision’s Monday policy was a muddle from the start and seemed like possibly the clueless construction of a secular public relations firm. It affirmed same sex marriage, inclusively in deference to liberal Protestant churches, while still implausibly insisting singles remain celibate until married, which liberal Protestants mostly don’t. It insisted employees must still uphold the Apostles Creed without admitting liberal Protestants typically reject it, ignore it, or reinterpret it into meaningless metaphor.

Sexual liberalism in religion always walks hand-in-hand with theological liberalism, which made continuance of World Vision’s Evangelical identity impossible under Monday’s policy, and which is why Evangelical critics were so viscerally aggrieved.

There are reports that after Monday several thousand World Vision donors, out of a reported more than 400,000, threatened ending their support. There’s also an indication that work with overseas missions partners, working in traditional cultures, was imperiled. The later was probably more persuasive than the former, although both should have been anticipated before Monday. Ironically, Wednesday’s policy may cost World Vision far more dollars than Monday’s.

Angry LGBTQ groups and their allies, who previously were unfocused on World Vision’s internal policy, furiously now may target it for boycott, demanding that government and corporations halt funding. Liberal supporters of Monday’s policy angrily denounced Evangelicals withdrawing support, with one declaring: “It’s astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there.” Will that same professed concern for starving children inhibit liberal demands for corporations and government to defund World Vision?…

From Mark Tooley’s “World Vision Withdraws From the Brink” at The American Spectator.

Tooley's essay is a good one. That's par for the course. Mark Tooley's writing, research and advocacy work at the Institute on Religion and Democracy is first rate and I feature him frequently on Vital Signs Blog.

However, in this case, I think my skepticism about World Vision's reversal is deeper than Tooley's. For instance, he suggests that the original decision to allow on staff homosexuals who were in "marriage" unions "seemed like possibly the clueless construction of a secular public relations firm."


These guys were well aware of what they were doing and were arrogant enough to think they could get away with it. Remember, World Vision's boss, Richard Stearns, boasted of how enlightened they were and how they were presenting a new model of "unity through diversity" that would heal the blindness and error of other Christian groups.

Remember too that Richard Stearns insisted that the World Vision governing board was "overwhelmingly in favor" of the move to legitimize homosexual unions.

No. I'm sorry; I'm not buying the apology or the professed change of heart. To do that I would have to see apologies and a change of heart about the other nefarious actions that World Vision has taken in recent years: the connections to abortion organizations and abortion-promoting "family planning" groups, the antagonistic attitudes towards Israel, the embrace of socialism and wealth distribution, the high salary of the World Vision CEO, and so on.

Until these things change too, I cannot support World Vision.

U.K. Abortion Boss Is Cool Even with Sex Selection Abortion

Ann Furedi is the boss of BPAS, Great Britain’s largest abortion “charity.” Yes, that’s the absurd title they give this abortion business that is responsible for about a fourth of all the abortions committed in the country. This, of course, is the same thing the government and media do in the United States; that is, telling Americans repeatedly that Planned Parenthood, a mega-abortion corporation that makes untold millions of dollars from killing preborn children, is also just...a “charity.”

Anyhow, Ms Furedi is again going out of her way to defend, even publicize, the abominable fact that British law does not prevent women from choosing an abortion even if it’s because the mum doesn’t want a baby girl.

Writes Furedi, "The woman gives her reasons, the doctor decides on the grounds as set out in the law. There is no legal requirement to deny a woman an abortion if she has a sex preference, providing that the legal grounds are still met. The law is silent on the matter of gender selection, just as it is silent on rape."

This is how abortionists think. More abortion is a positive good to them. Therefore, any restrictions at all -- the viability of the child in utero, the age of the mother, the involvement or even the knowledge of parents, the mother's understanding of the effects of abortion on her health and future, and even killing the baby simply because it's the "wrong" sex -- well, abortion zealots will fight tooth and claw against even these limited measures.

God help us.

If a Democrat Politician Is Arrested, Does It Make Any Noise in the Newsroom?

Rhode Island House of Representatives, Gordon Fox…mayor of Charlotte, Patrick Cannon…California state Senators Rod Wright, Ron Calderon, Leland Yee.

All Democrat politicians who were arrested this week.

Have you heard about any of them? Even though the crimes included bribery, perjury, and gun-running!

Howie Carr writes, “What a crime wave, in less than one week. So guess what most of the networks led with on their newscasts last night? The 5-month-old story of Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate. Because it has one thing going for it that none of these other stories had, the only thing that matters to the corrupt American media. Christie is a Republican.”

Washington's "War on Doctors"

Dear Congressman Brooks,

As a practicing family physician, I plead for help against what I can best characterize as Washington’s war against doctors.

The medical profession has never before remotely approached today’s stress, work hours, wasted costs, decreased efficiency, and declining ability to focus on patient care.

Doctors are smothered by destructive regulations that add costs, raise our overhead and ‘gum up the works,’ making patient treatment slower and less efficient, thus forcing doctors to focus on things other than patient care and reduce the number of patients we can help each day.

I spend more time at work than at any time in my 27 years of practice and more of that time is spent on administrative tasks and entering useless data into a computer rather than helping sick patients…

America has enjoyed the best health care the world has ever known. That health care is in jeopardy because physicians cannot survive Washington’s ‘war on doctors’ without relief.

Eventually the problems for doctors will become problems for patients, and we are all patients at some point…

In an address to the House on Wednesday, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks read aloud a letter sent to him by Dr. Marlin Gill of Decatur. The letter holds nothing back while detailing the excessive costs and regulations that Dr. Gill calls Obamacare’s “war against doctors.”

Read the rest of Dr. Gill’s letter here at the IJR Review.

"Shark Tank" Panelist Does the Math: Democrat Policies Destroy Jobs

In this clip (posted by the Heritage Foundation), successful investor Kevin O’Leary battles a liberal (and rude) CNN journalist over the huge damage that Democrat economic policies have on the nation.

He’s good.

Writes Israel Ortega, “O’Leary is spot on, confirming Heritage research finding that ‘during President Obama’s first four years in office, the annual regulatory burdens on Americans increased by nearly $70 billion.’”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stoned Silence: The Cause Michelle Obama Didn't Voice in China

First Lady Michelle Obama is now concluding a week-long tour of China with her mother and two daughters, a “real treat” for three generations of Obama women, according to Mrs. Obama’s Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen. While Mrs. Obama and her family were treating themselves to the best China has to offer, hundreds of millions of women are suffering at the hands of a brutal, totalitarian regime.

Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, stated: “I am extremely disappointed that Mrs. Obama has deliberately ignored egregious women's rights abuses while in China. Mrs. Obama has positioned herself as an international women's leader. She could have done so much good if she had been willing to use her position to advance women's rights in a nation that tramples them. Previous first ladies have used their positions of influence to speak out for human rights in this totalitarian regime.”…

Littlejohn continued: “As the mother of two children, Mrs. Obama could have spoken out against forced abortion under the One Child Policy. As the mother of two daughters, she could have taken aim also against gendercide – the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. She could have comforted the grieving family of Ms. Cao Shunli, a respected human rights activist who died weeks ago after having been denied medical treatment. As the wife of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, she could have visited Liu Xia, wife of jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.”

Littlejohn concluded: “It is disheartening to see Mrs. Obama leave China without conveying any message on behalf of women’s rights. Instead, Mrs. Obama has chosen to ignore the intense suffering of hundreds of millions of women who have been victims of forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, gendercide and sexual slavery; and she has chosen to ignore the plight of Liu Xia and the family of Cao Shunli. These choices seriously undermine any claim that she is a champion of women's rights.”

(The above paragraphs were taken from Reggie Littlejohn’s essay in today’s Women’s Rights Without Frontiers e-mail update. You can sign up for these updates by going to the organization’s website right here.)

World Vision Caves In Again. This Time with Same-Sex "Marriage."

The American branch of World Vision, a Christian relief mission, has announced it is now going to accept staff members who are in same-sex unions. World Vision will retain, however, a policy of abstinence from sexual activity for staff who are not married.

Sexual virtue among the single? Why hang on to this particular biblical standard when turning so dramatically and blasphemously aside from others?

The change was explained to Christianity Today by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision's American branch (whose annual salary, by the way, is over $400,000). Stearns insisted that it is only the American branch making this move...a move in which its governing board was "overwhelmingly in favor."

However, the international organization (one of America's largest charities with over a billion dollars a year take) isn’t protesting the move at all and thus seems not only willing to embrace the new policy, but probably will shift its own in that direction soon. After all, the international part of the organization has long ago made its own “marriages” with worldliness, most disgustingly by partnering with abortionists.

I have, by the way, reported on these cave-ins by World Vision before. And that after correspondence with the organization itself. So, this isn't mere rumor. World Vision is deliberately moving away from orthodox Christian values.

That's bad enough in my book and I will never give another dollar to an organization so willfully indifferent to the clear teaching of Scripture.

And yet there are still other bothersome things about World Vision. Statements and policies that are "decidedly supportive of the Palestinian cause and condemnatory of Israel." A belief that justice is served through socialism and a coercive redistribution of wealth.  A rating by Charity Navigator that is not the highest. Attitudes of arrogant denial and of wanting to foist it's style of political-correctness on other evangelicals.

Says Stearns, "I want to reassure you that we are not sliding down some slippery slope of compromise, nor are we diminishing the authority of Scripture in our work. We have always affirmed traditional marriage as a God-ordained institution. Nothing in our work around the world with children and families will change. We are the same World Vision you have always believed in."

You've got to be kidding. His words do not come close to matching his actions. Furthermore, "Stearns asserts that the 'very narrow policy change' should be viewed by others as 'symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.' He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians."

He also explains that the decision to allow same-sex partners as staff in World Vision "makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues." And, "It's been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church. It's tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity."

"This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture. People can say, 'Scripture is very clear on this issue,' and my answer is, 'Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.' The church is divided on this issue. And we are not the local church. We are an operational organization uniting Christians around a common mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ."

Stearns and World Vision have made a devastating compromise with the postmodern world and, even worse, they are wrapping it in a false and preposterous piety in order to make it palatable to other Christians. This is shameful, cowardly and menacing.

In response to World Vision’s policy change, Russell D. Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, writes, “At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish…

"There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to 'evolve' on the sexuality issue without alienating their base. I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say 'Hath God said?' and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.

"Donor bases come and go. But the gospel of Jesus Christ stands forever.

‘World Vision’ is a good thing to have, unless the world is all you can see.”

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, also shared his disappointment and opposition to World Vision's move. 

"I was shocked today to hear of World Vision's decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, would be heartbroken. He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Case You Missed It

Here's a few important reports from the culture wars that you might have missed.  Read.  Pray.  Pass along.

* “Volunteers must leave Maine campus ministry” (Sarah Padbury, World)
The leaders of a campus ministry at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, must step down as of May 1 because they refused to sign a non-discrimination statement. The school’s new volunteer policy requires organizations to allow LGBTIQA—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning or asexual—students to be leaders in the group...

“NYT reporter: Obama administration ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom’ in a generation” (Brendan Bordelon, Daily Caller)

* “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs” (John Bingham, Telegraph)

* “Downton Abbey and abortion rights: The popular TV series provides a lesson in how people deal with a ‘crisis pregnancy’” (Michael Stokes Paulsen, Mercator)

* “Obama and the Churches of Saudi Arabia” (Nina Shea, Wall Street Journal)

“Pro-Life Activist: Abortion Industry Hurts, Not Empowers, Women” (Alissa Tabirian, Heritage Foundation)

* "Vatican Chief Justice: Obama’s Policies ‘Have Become Progressively More Hostile Toward Christian Civilization’" (CBS, St Louis)

Monday, March 24, 2014

The First Step to Spiritual Recovery? Turn Off the Postmodern World.

A friend from another area part of the country wrote me last weekend, telling me a sad story about the wife of an evangelical pastor who has decided to leave after a marriage of...well, let's just say, many years.

In my response to her, I made an observation that Claire thought I should share publicly. And so I do.

"Sometimes these things have a specific origin (an affair, the desire for an affair, a developed antagonism to their spouse, or some other act of rebellion to God and His call).

"But, in most cases, it stems from a diet of worldliness. The truths of God begin to fade as one begins to think, feel, desire as they are told to by the TV, the movies, the magazines, the people at work.

"I'm convinced that the first step to spiritual reformation in the culture is for American Christians to turn off the mind-altering, spirit-weakening noise from the postmodern world."

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, NASB)

Eric Holder's DOJ Ignores Woman Who Voted Six Times For Obama

Last week Al Sharpton embraced convicted vote fraudster Melowese Richardson at a “voting rights” rally in Cincinnati.  The United States Department of Justice under Eric Holder has done nothing to Melowese Richardson 410 days after she admitted on camera that she committed multiple federal felonies by voting six times for President Obama’s reelection.

Federal law makes it a felony to vote more than once for President.  In fact, 42 U.S.C. Section 1973i(e) subjects Richardson to twenty-five years in federal prison for her six votes for Obama.

The lack of DOJ action against an unrepentant federal vote fraudster combined with Richardson’s lionization by Sharpton and the organization that sponsored the rally demonstrates how the Justice Department is facilitating a culture of brazen criminality on the eve of the 2014 midterm elections.  The failure to indict Richardson is the latest example of Holder’s department excusing lawlessness in federal elections and abandoning law abiding Americans…

Read on. (“No Justice Department Charges Against Ohio Woman Who Voted Six Times for Obama” by J. Christain Adams over at Breitbart.)

Police Charge California Professor Who Attacked Pro-Life Advocate

This is how the far-left think.

Even when a university denies freedom of speech — except for a little bitty, carefully drawn square of the university property — if a leftist professor decides she doesn’t like the nature of the speech conducted there, she is “morally justified” in taking actions of her own to deny that speech.

Indeed, she is justified in her own progressive mind to engage in threats, intimidation, vandalism, robbery, and physical assault!

And in doing so, she arrogantly insists to this moment that she is setting an excellent example for her students.

Fortunately, the police do not agree and, in this case at least, have acted in defense of justice. The professor (a Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, photo above, whose "scholarly fields" include black studies, pornography, and "sex work”) has been charged with three criminal counts.

Here’s more on this story from Nathan Harden at The College Fix.

Fetal Remains Burned to Generate Heat for British Hospitals

Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph reports on a very ugly example of just how far Great Britain has gone in trashing (quite literally) the sanctity of human life ethic.

 The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains…

You can read the rest of the report here, “Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals.”

But going over to that page will reveal yet another gruesome realty about Great Britain’s increasing indifference to the injustice and lethal violence of abortion — even abortion committed simply because the sex of the baby isn’t the one desired by the parents.

Note on the right sidebar of that Telegraph page a listing of recent news stories on that matter:

* Women are legally free to abort a baby because of its sex, says abortion charity head

* Gender abortions: criminal charges not in 'public interest' says CPS

* 'No need to change law to stop babies being aborted for gender'

There's no doubt about it. Great Britain's moral ethics are rapidly rotting.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Changes in Vital Signs Blog?

Americans are dramatically changing their attitudes when it comes to visiting issue-oriented websites and blogs. The traffic to such sites had already been slowing for the last three years or so but the re-election of Barack Obama last year accelerated the trend even more. Internet surfers who previously frequented these sites (the largest percentage of which were conservatives) began to find other things to do.

Were they affected by frustration, disillusionment, fatigue, and a sense of powerlessness? Certainly. After all, every day brought new horror stories of the growing tyranny, corruption, and decadence -- stories that were heartbreaking and dispiriting. You can only take in so much before being overwhelmed. So why not just tune out?

Many have.

Others have chosen more pleasant distractions. They may still live many hours on the internet but instead of the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the rest, they are now hanging out at eBay, Pinterest, YouTube, game sites, or pursuing non-controversial matters through social media.

But there is a third way that still others have taken. These folks have adjusted their internet habits too but they haven't given up on the information, encouragement, and helpfulness of the issue-oriented sites. They still seek out information about their political and cultural landscape because, no matter how bad things get, they still care. They want to know how to effectively pray, how to best defend themselves and their families from the culture rot, and how to rebuild the ethics of a culture that once promoted decency, fairness, life and family, religious freedom, economic growth, and justice.

But these conservatives can only take so much too. Indeed, as we've maintained all along, they should only take so much -- before they do something in response! And taking action, by basic necessity, means less viewing. That's fine by us. 

What does this all mean for Vital Signs Blog? 1) It confirms the purposes we have tried to serve throughout our many years of blogging. We have sought to provide information, insight, encouragement, and specific action targets for Christians who are committed to "occupy until Jesus comes" and therefore "strengthen the things that remain." We will continue to do that the best we can with Vital Signs Blog.

2) We do desire, however, to use our time in the most profitable ways. And, just as we moved away from our longstanding radio program when the response began to fall (with expenses going in the opposite direction), we will begin to redirect some of the hours that have been spent on Vital Signs Blog towards other kinds of ministry. Again, Vital Signs Blog isn't going away. But it will be changing.

3) Among the significant changes? More original articles -- some quite succinct, a few more comprehensive and detailed. Many more interconnections with the Vital Signs Ministries website, Twitter and Facebook, my sermons, my personal correspondence, The Book Den, even our Russian-language website.

Also, more compilation posts. More "encore" posts. More audio clips. And yet there will be fewer posts than the 20-25 we uploaded in years past. Thus, we hope to make Vital Signs Blog tighter, better suited for the Christian activist, and an outreach that better complements the other ministries of Vital Signs.

See you next week.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Biggest Crime? The Criminal Justice System.

John Hinderaker from over at PowerLine writes, “One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian state is that there are so many laws and regulations that no one can possibly know what they are, let alone obey them. Thus everyone is a criminal, and only the despot’s discretion separates the solid citizen from the criminal. Unfortunately, the United States is rapidly approaching — if it has not already reached— this dystopian status. So Glenn Reynolds’s great column in USA Today should be a starting point for lots of conversations.”

And that Glen Reynolds column? It’s right here.

Don't miss it.

Ukraine Looks to Sleeping Europe in Vain

...Putin has four things on his side, at least in the short-term. The first, of course, is military power. The second is his increasing control of the media and over public opinion in Russia. The third is that his policy appeals to nationalist passion which, apart from ethnic hatred, is probably the strongest political passion of all. The fourth is the weakness of his European opponents.

Europe has no military power and would not use it if it did. No one wants to let the genie of war out of the European bottle yet again. Just as important, the European population doesn’t give fig what happens in or to Ukraine, so long as whatever happens doesn’t drive tens of millions of Ukrainians westward…

[Europeans] are prepared to make no sacrifices to meet such threats, least of all in economic circumstances that are already precarious. For most electorates in Europe, Ukraine is, like Czechoslovakia in 1938, a faraway country of which they know nothing; what they want, and will judge their governments by, is prosperity at home. And only more immediate threats will arouse their national passions sufficiently to resign them to the slightest economic hardship.

Hubris brings nemesis, but hubris takes many forms. One is the belief that the need for vigilance has been abolished because everyone now has the same worldview as ourselves, that the end of history has come, and we are it.

(Theodore Dalrymple, “Why Europe Sleeps,” City Journal)

And, by the way, Ukraine better not depend on the United States either. 

Ted Cruz: Eric Holder Again Putting Politics Over Rule of Law

Yes, Eric Holder is at it again.

In yet another outrageous act demonstrating hypocrisy, irresponsible partisanship, and a brazen dedication to protect the crimes of the Obama administration, Holder has refused to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS's illegal targeting of conservative groups. Instead, he's standing behind the appointment of a lifelong Democrat loyalist who has been an enthusiastic (and generous) supporter of Barack Obama.

Here's the response to Holder's latest outrage from Senator Ted Cruz.

It is the height of hypocrisy for the Obama Administration to claim that the investigator leading the investigation into the IRS's illegal program has no conflict of interest. The investigator is a partisan Democrat who has donated over six thousand dollars to President Obama and Democrat causes. Just as nobody would trust John Mitchell to investigate Richard Nixon, nobody should trust a partisan Obama donor to investigate the IRS's political targeting of President Obama's enemies. Sadly, "in the discretion of the Attorney General," Eric Holder has chosen to reject the bipartisan tradition of the Department of Justice of putting rule of law above political allegiance.

Both Nixon Administration Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Clinton Administration Attorney General Janet Reno appointed special prosecutors whose integrity was beyond reproach; Eric Holder should do likewise. To date, nine months after a damning Inspector General report, nobody has been indicted, many of the victims have not even been interviewed, and Lois Lerner has twice pleaded the Fifth. And yet the Attorney General refuses to allow a genuine--and impartial--investigation.

The integrity of the Department of Justice deserves better. The American people deserve better.

Amen, Senator.

Add your voice to Senator Cruz' by telling your Congressman, Senators, and local newspaper and TV stations what you think about Eric Holder's arrogant cronyism.

(See also Scott Johnson’s PowerLine article, “Obama’s IRS, Cont’d" right here.)

“Dear Future Mom” Ad Celebrates Life

"Dear Future Mom" was created by the large Italian advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi Italy for CoorDown, Italy’s National Coordination of Associations of People With Down Syndrome, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

The folks in the ad include both children and adults, filmed across Europe and speaking in their native languages. And while most of the responses are positive assurances — he’ll be able to go to school, learn to write, travel, and work, say the subjects — they also include realistic warnings, like “Sometimes it will be difficult,” “Very difficult,” “Almost impossible.” "But," one young man adds, “isn’t it like that for all mothers?” At the end, some moms jump into the frame to hug their children, their proud smiles providing, perhaps, the best reassurance of all.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chemical Abortions Don't Count?

An Associated Press story reports that "Abortions in Nebraska have fallen to at least a 20-year low." Unfortunately, the article reveals the pro-abortion bias common with the AP (such as an overt skepticism towards pro-life leaders while touting contrary views) but, more important, it fails to honestly discuss the most relevant fact of all.

That fact?

It is only surgical abortions that are counted in these official tallies. Those abortions performed using various drugs (drugs which the article repeatedly and inaccurately refer to as mere "birth-control" and which are increasingly the means of choice of Planned Parenthood and other abortionists to "terminate" pregnancies) are not counted by state health officials.

America's downward trend in the abortion rate over the last two decades certainly involves several factors, including the effects of pro-life laws, the spread of pro-life education, the increased awareness of fetal development through ultrasound and fetal surgery, and the compassionate work of pro-life pregnancy aid centers.

But the main reason the abortion numbers are down is that the numbers are conveniently cooked. And that manipulated math not only provides cover for the chemical abortion industry, I'm afraid it too often provides false comfort to pro-life advocates.

Sorry, but that's the cold, hard truth.

The preborn children who are killed by chemicals like RU-486 and the "morning after" pill, let alone the vast numbers whose lives are ended by the abortifacient properties of the misnamed "birth-control" pill itself, deserve to be counted. They deserve to be mourned. And they deserve our best efforts and persistent prayers to prevent other preborn boys and girls from falling victim to the same cruel chemicals.

If you're interested in knowing more, including how to best communicate to others the dangers of abortifacient drugs, please check out these sources from Vital Signs Ministries:

The New Abortionists: Chemical Abortion in Contemporary Culture

"The Profane Politics of RU-486

Gambling With Life

(This post originally appeared here August 26 of last year.)

Raising the National Debt: Over & Over & Over

Today's "Wow Articles"

* “O-Care premiums to skyrocket” (Elise Viebeck at The Hill)

* “GOP Begins To Fight Back Against Obama's Broad Executive Overreach” (Matthew Boyle, Breitbart)

* “Sixteen Weird ‘Sweet’ Reasons to Get Covered, in GIFs” (Veronique de Rugy, NRO)

* “Premiums rising faster than eight years before Obamacare Combined” (Sarah Hurtubise, Daily Caller)

* “Suicide can be rational, says editor of Bioethics” (Xavier Symons, BioEdge)

* “Livin’ Large on the Union Payroll” (Jillian Kay Melchior, NRO)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interactivity: Vital Signs Style

Looking for ministry opportunities? Stimulating fellowship? Spiritual growth?

Here are  a few of the things Vital Signs has going on this spring.

* Join us for prayers outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill. In addition to individuals praying there at various times, a few of us go as a group on the first and third Thursdays of the month (8-9:30 AM) and the first and third Saturdays (8-9 AM). We also encourage you to use the “3 for 5” prayer program (three minutes of prayer each weekday) as part of a concerted effort against the nation’s leading abortionist.

* Guests are always welcome to help us visit with the residents of the 11 nursing homes and other senior facilities where we present “When Swing Was King” every month. The schedule can be found at our website right here.

* The next “P.A.L. Night” (Prayer, Action & Letter-writing) will be this Sunday evening at 7. At these parties, we provide everything you need to write courteous, informative and meaningful letters that shine the light of Christ into the halls of power. In addition, we always have a few thank-you letters and cards to write. Give us a call if you’re interested.

* Ready for a reading challenge? Several friends of Vital Signs have committed to completing one of two reading tracks by the end of the summer. (In fact, some have signed on to both!) The first track is the seven short books of The Chronicles of Narnia. The second involves three books: Heaven by Randy Alcorn, The Heart of Prayer by Jarram Barrs, and Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. Those involved in each project can “talk” about their reading with others on Facebook or, from time to time, talk in person over coffee at gatherings we will announce. Also, come August, Denny & Claire will host a barbecue dinner at their house for everyone who was involved in either project.

* Beginning at 7 o’clock on Monday evening, April 7th, Denny & Claire will be hosting the first of four L’Abri evenings, featuring the four best lectures of the recent L’Abri conference in Rochester, Minnesota. April 7th will be “The Biblical Basis for True Spirituality” by Jerram Barrs. On April 14th, we will listen to “Spirituality According to Francis Schaeffer” by Bill Edgar. “Three Theories of Everything” by Ellis Potter is the lecture for April 21st. And we will finish off on April 28th with “The Christian Life:An Other-Centered Walk” by Dick Keyes. These presentations were all stimulating, illuminating and inspirational. We hope you can come.

Sign the World Family Declaration Today

Leaders throughout history have proclaimed it, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares it, and constitutions across the world affirm it: The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and must be protected.

Never has the family stood in more urgent need of protection as it now faces its moment of greatest peril, a crisis that is eroding society and jeopardizing civilization. The solution has been known since antiquity. To put the world in order, we must first put in order the family.

Please sign, encourage others to sign, and disseminate the World Family Declaration as widely as possible—and then do everything possible to strengthen and protect the family. What we now do, or fail to do, will shape our world for generations to come.

Read the Declaration (prepared by the World Congress of Families, a pro-life, pro-family organization that Claire and I enthusiastically support) right here. And, at that same page, you can sign the Declaration yourself.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Real St. Patrick

The arrival of St. Patrick’s Day will elicit various celebrations. For instance, there will be much made of the uniqueness of the Irish race but, at least for the duration of the holiday, the non-Irish are invited to participate in the fun: sporting green clothing, wearing leprechaun decorations, pinching, eating corned beef sandwiches, politically-correct parades, and painting big green shamrocks in the public streets...usually outside the taverns.

It's all strange behavior and quite irrelevant to the memory of St. Patrick. Indeed, when one bothers to look beneath the pagan coverings of St. Patrick's Day to the man himself, one finds a truly noble Christian hero. So, let’s take a look at the historical figure of Saint Patrick. Let’s ignore the silliness and learn the lessons God would teach us about a faithful, zealous servant of Christ.

You might know the legends - how Patrick expelled the snakes from Ireland; how he explained the Trinity by reference to the shamrock; and so on. But the historical Patrick is more intriguing and inspirational than even the Patrick of legend.

The first revealing fact is that Patrick was was not Irish. He was a Scot by birth, the son of a decurio (town councilor) who served as a deacon in the church. His grandfather was also a man of the cloth. While still a youth, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and reduced to slavery there. It was a life devoted to tending his master’s goat and sheep herds but Patrick finally began to find a measure of comfort and strength through prayer. This was in dramatic contrast to his earlier years in Britain when, as Patrick himself described it,  he “knew not the true God” and did not heed the “clerical admonitions for salvation.”

Patrick escaped from his slavery -- after six years -- and made his way to a port some 200 miles away on the southeast coast of Ireland. He persuaded some sailors to take him with them, but it would still be a long time before Patrick reached home. In fact, there were various adventures in foreign lands ahead, including days where he nearly starved to death. But, God was gracious to him, and Patrick finally returned to his family, though very much changed. He had embraced the Christian faith of his family by his own convictions now. And he embraced too the call of service in Christ's kingdom.

Patrick first received a basic clerical training. This would have included instruction using the Latin Bible (which he came to know well) but it was not a highly academic education, the lack of which he always regretted, and for which he was sometimes criticized in later years by his enemies. His own Latin writings are certainly inelegant, even at times rustic, but they reflect a purity and power arising from a heart dedicated to the Lord.

Then, in a remarkable display of compassion and courage, Patrick decided to return to Ireland. By his own choice, he returned to the land where he had been worked as a slave, this time to bring the liberating message of the gospel. This was in 435.

Patrick worked principally in the North with his base at Armagh. It was from here that he made his many missionary journeys among the heathen Celtic tribes. Those efforts were blessed by God and were very successful. Patrick was a tireless worker, an expert organizer, and a man of consecrated prayer. By the end of his life, he had planted over 200 congregations and introduced thousands to the true religion of Jesus Christ.

Patrick's most crucial goals were confrontational and were pursued with tremendous zeal -- abolishing paganism, idolatry, and sun-worship. He was ready for imprisonment or even death in his following Christ. Nevertheless, he was generally popular. He made no distinction of classes; he was simple and unpretentious; he was compassionate and humble.  He never forgot his origins. Indeed, Patrick retained, even in his old age, vivid memories of being an unlearned exile, a slave, a desperate fugitive, and a lost soul who, by the incredible mercies of God, had learned to trust wholly in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for his salvation.

Patrick lives in example, but he also lives through his writings, the earliest to still survive from the British church. They are his Confession (his autobiography), the “Letter to Coroticus” (which was a protest against British slave-traders), and the Lorica (translated “Breastplate”) which stands as one of the most beautiful pieces of ancient Christian literature. Here's a passage from the latter:

May the strength of God pilot us.
May the power of God preserve us.
May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us.
May the way of God direct us.
May the shield of God defend us.

May the hosts of God guard us against the snares of the Evil One and the temptations of the world.

May Christ be with us. Christ before us.
Christ in us. Christ over us.
May thy salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and for evermore.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

(The above text is a recently edited version of a "Vital Signs" radio transcript I wrote back in the 90s...maybe even the 80s. Yipes.)

Articles to Start the Week

* “Hillary Clinton Says Women’s Rights Can’t Progress Without Right to Abortion” (Stefano Gennarini,

* “US cites security more to censor, deny records” (Ted Birdis & Jack Gillum, AP)

The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy…

“The War on Julie Boonstra and other Obamacare cancer victims” (Henry Payne, NRO)

* “Fertility treatment pioneer calls for caution” (Shannon Roberts, Mercator)

The renowned Lord Winston of Hammersmith is in New Zealand at the moment visiting schools to educate students about infertility and the dangers of waiting too long to have children.  It’s interesting – and a little ironic - that the fertility expert, who pioneered IVF while it was still in its trial stages, is now warning that the rapid advance in reproductive technologies is making people too complacent about having children.  He argues that many such technologies are, in reality, not very effective and cannot beat nature or the ticking reproductive clock.   In fact he goes so far as to contend that it is often an immoral industry which provides a soul-destroying experience for young couples who are desperate to have a baby and are driven to do things like re-mortgage their houses to afford the hugely expensive treatment. 

* “Black Senior Forced to Choose: Obama or Jesus.” (Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker)

* “We overhauled U.S. health care — to insure 4.2 million people?” (Joseph Curl, Washington Times)

Still, the obvious question is: We changed the $2.7 trillion health care system to sign up 4.2 million people?…What’s more, it turns out many of those signing up to the program already had insurance. “Few uninsured Americans are gaining coverage under Obamacare,” CNN reported in early March. Just 27 percent of the enrollees were previously uninsured, according to a survey conducted in February by McKinsey & Co. To top it all off, reports have emerged that many of the enrollees are more elderly and more unhealthy, which is likely to tax the system heavily just as it gets started.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Heads Up" Reads

As the weekend approaches, find a little time to read through these important articles.

* Nothing breeds disillusionment and cynicism more than the failure to deliver. (“The Most Cynical Generation,” Jonah Goldberg, NRO)

* In one of this year’s more cynical foreign policy moves, the Obama Administration is holding aid for Ukraine hostage to its longstanding goal of reducing U.S. influence at the International Monetary Fund. Yes, you read that right: Reducing U.S. influence is the Administration’s goal…(“Holding Aid for Ukraine Hostage,” Terry Miller, The Heritage Foundation)

* The refusal by public schools’ sex-education programs to acknowledge gender differences is betraying both boys and girls. The genders should be separated for sex counseling. It is absurd to avoid the harsh reality that boys have less to lose from casual serial sex than do girls, who risk pregnancy and whose future fertility can be compromised by disease. Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity. Above all, girls need life-planning advice. (“Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed,” Camille Paglia, TIME)

* And here's a few dealing with that missing Malaysian airliner:

* “Investigators reportedly eye 'sabotage' in Malaysian jet disappearance” (Fox News/AP report)

* “Bombshell Revelation Deepens Mystery of Flight 370” (John Hinderaker, PowerLine)

* “Missing Malaysia Airlines jet: Investigation paying 'special attention' to Chinese Uighur passenger” (Lindsay Murdoch, Sydney Morning Herald)

* “Radar data suggests missing Malaysia plane deliberately flown way off course” (Niluksi Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy, Reuters)

HHS Exec Quits; David Wright Overwhelmed by "Profoundly Dysfunctional” Bureaucracy

A Health and Human Services official has resigned after dealing with the frustration of the “profoundly dysfunctional” federal bureaucracy, which left him “offended as an American taxpayer.”

In a resignation letter obtained by ScienceInsider, David Wright, director of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) — which oversees and monitors possible research misconduct — offers a scathing rebuke of the unwieldy and inefficient bureaucracy that he dealt with for the two years he served in the position…

According to Wright, activities that in his capacity as an academic administrator that took a day or two, took weeks and months in the federal government.

He recalled an instance in which he could not get approval for a $35 cost to have cassette tapes converted into CDs. He eventually was able to get them converted in 20 minutes for free by a university. And another instance in which he “urgently needed to fill a vacancy,” but was told there was secret priority list. Sixteen months later, he wrote, the position was still unfilled.

“On another occasion I asked your deputy why you didn’t conduct an evaluation by the Op-Divs of the immediate office administrative services to try to improve them,” he wrote. ”She responded that that had been tried a few years ago and the results were so negative that no further evaluations have been conducted.”

“As for the rest, I’m offended as an American taxpayer that the federal bureaucracy — at least the part I’ve labored in — is so profoundly dysfunctional. I’m hardly the first person to have made that discovery, but I’m saddened by the fact that there is so little discussion, much less outrage, regarding the problem…

Read Caroline May’s full story here in The Daily Caller. And over here at Science Insider is the original story reported by Jocelyn Kaiser.

Liberalism Doesn't Work...But, Man, It's Sure Expensive

Back in late February, a new contract document revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services would be paying $60 million for the computer cloud that supports back-end data sharing for and state Obamacare marketplaces, more than five times the amount in the original contract. This week HHS revealed that the contract has been further revised — to roughly $120 million, now more than ten times the original $11 million value of the contract when Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services first awarded it in 2011.

In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government…

Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place…

(From “Why Liberals Can’t Govern” by Jim Geraghty. Read the whole piece over here at NRO.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“Old School” Christians

The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote yesterday to friends in England.

"We would love to get back to the U.K. some day and spend some time with you...but we don't see that in the forecast very soon. Things here just seem to get busier, especially with the popularity of 'When Swing Was King' and the ever-increasing duties with the little church where I preach.

But we know “slower” days are coming and not only because of the natural processes of aging but because of the way even the Church tends to marginalize older Christians.  This is even more true of older Christians whose cultural values run counter to the “emergent” 20/30/40 somethings! Throw in the fact that we haven’t picked up tattoos and piercings and a love for Santana-like guitar riffs in church…and we are definitely slated for the scrap heap.

But that’s cool.  We’re quite content with reading (and re-reading) books; listening to old music (Bruckner, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, the Supremes -- you get the idea); and participating in our social media of choice; that is, conversations over coffee.

And, of course, there will always be plenty of opportunities for growth and for ministry.  God will see to that.  And though the types of ministry almost undoubtedly will change as we grow older, He will be just as delighted when we perform them with grace and integrity and gratitude.  The rewards will be just as generous too.  Lord, help me always to appreciate that truth."

For a related read, check out the February LifeSharer letter, "The L'Abri Connection."

Looking for Today's Most Important Reads?

* “Progressivism’s War on Winners” (Mary Eberstadt, NRO)

* “Obamanomics Is Ticking Time Bomb For Millennial Generation” (Salvator J. Lamastra V, Investor's Business Daily)

* “My Family's Misadventures With Obamacare, Continued” (Michelle Malkin, RCP)

* “Global Warming Alarmists Caught Doctoring '97-Percent Consensus' Claims” (James Taylor, Forbes)

* “What Could Go Wrong? Millennials are underemployed, unhitched, and unchurched at record rates.” (W. Bradford Wilcox, NRO)

Is the Supreme Court The "Most Moral Institution" in Government?

Of course, it was the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade which ushered in the wholesale destruction of preborn boys and girls, a horrendous “slaughter of the innocents” that the Court has continued to promote in the decades since. Millions of people have thus been violently tortured and killed, all with the arrogant sanction of the Court. 

Yet speaking to an audience of 1,200 students at the University of Washington recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the U.S. Supreme Court “the most moral institution” in government.

My, my.

The death of anyone’s moral conscience is a tragic and terrible thing. But when a Supreme Court Justice dares to so distort language, history, and morality, it portends a tragic and terrible future for the whole nation.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5: 20-21, NASB)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Nothing Stays in the Closet Nowadays."

Remember when Hollywood executives sought to cover up the scandalous activity of their stars in order to avoid severe damage to box office receipts?

Today, anything goes. In fact, the executives now holding those high Hollywood posts actually go out of their way to parade, publicize and promote the most brazen immorality of the folks they have under contract. They have concluded (rightly so, obviously) that scandal helps one's career, so vastly different are the moral standards of the public from days gone by. 

Forget Dorian Gray. Nothing stays in the closet nowadays.

Meanwhile, American Christians continue to drink freely from these polluted waters, desiring hipness over holiness, entertainment over enlightenment, and mindless conformity over the counter-culture lifestyle that Jesus commanded.

It’s a very sad state of affairs.

As an ancient seer put it, “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26, NASB)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday's Prayer Priorities

At yesterday morning's worship service at Faith Bible Church, we tried a new way to involve the congregation in corporate prayer. We were looking for something that might also help people to focus in on some of our church's prayer priorities and remember them throughout the week.

Just before the sermon, I asked a couple of the leaders of our small congregation (Don McGuire and Allen Nelson) to join me up front. I had printed off the prayers and given them copies beforehand. We then explained to the congregation that one of us would read a specific prayer and then we would have a period of silence (15-20 seconds) where we could all lift these appeals to God together. We believe it worked very well and so I thought I'd pass it on to you this morning. It might be something you would like to try in your church. Or, perhaps more immediately relevant, you'd like to lift up to our Lord right now these same prayers.

1. Denny prays, “Dear Lord Jesus, we pray this morning for Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith in You, the Savior.  We pray for mercy and justice for them, their families, and their church congregations. We pray also that their testimony would have tremendous effect.”

2. Don prays, “We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We pray for peace and liberty in Ukraine, in Egypt, in Sudan, and in other places so deeply troubled by violence.  We pray for the gospel to be preached with great power in all nations today and throughout this week.”

3. Allen prays, “We pray this morning in Your Name, dear Lord Jesus, for a spiritual awakening in the United States.  Lord, we ask You to awaken Your Church and help believers serve You with a whole heart. Please make our land one that again promotes and protects life, marriage, and religious freedom.”

4. Denny prays, “Our heavenly Father, we pray together as a church family right now for our sister Harriet.  Make Your strength and joy strong in her life. Please touch her body and spirit with healing. And, for all of the others in our fellowship who are enduring serious trials regarding their health, please show Your mercy to them in abundance.”

5. Don prays, “Father, we ask that You minister in great power through all of the missionaries that our church supports.  Give them vision and health and perseverance.  Minister in their families and shine Your light through them to many. Please grant them all of the financial and prayer support they need.”

6. Allen prays, “As a church family this morning, we come together to praise You, Lord, for Your goodness and faithfulness and power.  We thank You for Your Word and for the marvelous gift of salvation through Christ. We thank You also for the promise of heaven and all of its eternal joys, given freely to everyone who believes in You.”

7. Denny prays, “Dear Father in heaven, our desire is for Your kingdom to come on earth and that means in us too.  Help us to overcome those ‘easily besetting’ sins in our lives. Free us from cowardice and worldliness and unbelief.  Move us to become better Bible students and then more consistent doers of what we learn in Your Word.”

8. Don prays, “We ask this morning for fresh blessings upon Faith Bible Church.  Please give wisdom and courage to her leaders.  Give us love for one another and help us to carefully avoid gossip and critical spirit and division.  Help us to grow spiritually and to minister effectively in Your Name in all we say and do.”

9. Allen prays, “Dear Father, we ask You to guide America’s leaders in truth and righteousness.  Protect them but enlighten them in Your ways.  We pray the same for judges and others in positions of power.  Cause their hearts to seek Your will and to humbly serve the One and Holy God.”

It's Spring for "When Swing Was King"

It's a double-barrel day for "When Swing Was King" as we start off our March schedule with presentations at Bethany Lutheran Home in Council Bluffs this afternoon and House of Hope in north Omaha this evening.

The show will be a good one, a wonderful mix of music from the greatest of the big bands, crooners, and canaries (plus a couple hundred photos) which will take our audiences on a "sentimental journey" back to the days of their youth. We can't wait to get started.

By the way, here's the song list of Volume 3, Series 3 that we will be playing in all 11 facilities this month.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra (Vocals by Ray Eberle)
"At Last"

2) Artie Shaw Orchestra
"Lady Be Good"
3) Harry James Orchestra (Vocals by Helen Ward)
"Where or When"

4) Harry James Orchestra
"Fly Me to the Moon"
(This is the only example in all 23 volumes of WSWK that we play two songs by one artist. We do so because the Harry James/Helen Ward number played just before is a short, radio recording that only features that bravura trumpet of James' at the very end...just enough to whet one's musical appetite for more. And so, that's just what we give them -- more! And we do so with the most dramatic and lovely instrumental version of "Fly Me to the Moon" they've ever heard!)

5) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra (Vocals by Vaughn Monroe)
"Blue Moon"

6) Larry Clinton Orchestra (Vocals by Bea Wain)
"Heart and Soul"

7) Benny Goodman Orchestra
"After You've Gone"
8) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Vocals by Frank Sinatra & the Pied Pipers)

9) Russ Morgan Orchestra
"With the Wind and Rain In Her Hair"

10) Bing Crosby
"Stranger In Paradise"

11) Les Brown Orchestra (Vocals by Doris Day)
"My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time"

12) The Mills Brothers
"Paper Doll"

Six Scintillating Reads

 Here's six informative, stimulating articles (covering a wide range of subjects) that you shouldn't miss.

* “Ukraine: Barack Obama and the West are weakened by a fatal narcissism” (Janet Daley, Telegraph)

* “Four Businesses Whose Owners Were Penalized for Their Religious Beliefs” (Kelsey Harris, Heritage Foundation)

* “Stop Sharing and Preach” (Bryan Loritts)

* “Common Abortion Myths in Rolling Stone” (Anna Franzonello, National Review)

* “300,000-Member Union Drops Bombshell Obamacare Report” (Wynton Hall, Breitbart)

* “The Cult of the Visioneer” (Todd Pruitt, Reformation 21)

Monday, March 03, 2014

AWOL for the Academy Awards

Oh, don’t tell me I missed the Academy Awards show again!

Well, okay. I'll come clean. The last Academy Awards show I watched was in 1966 and I was in the 9th grade. I remember that Lee Marvin was named Best Actor that year for his dual role in “Cat Ballou.” I was pleased because I had actually seen that movie.

I’ve missed most of the Hollywood movies since then.

As a matter of fact, I checked through the list of the films nominated for Best Picture awards in the last 30 years and discovered I had seen…get ready…5 of them.

In 1984 Claire and I saw “Amadeus.” I didn’t like it. The history was lousy and the acting self-indulgent and overdone.

1995 is a puzzling year because I actually saw three of the films nominated for the top prize: “Braveheart,” “Apollo 13,” and “Babe.” The only one that made a lasting impression was “Babe.” I watched it again (years later) on video and liked it just as well.

And then the last movie I saw that was nominated for Best Picture was “Seabiscuit” in 2003. I didn’t care much for this movie either. The book by Laura Hillerbrand was absolutely fantastic. But the movie…well, let's just say that the movie wasn’t.

Hmm. 30 years of the most highly acclaimed films in the land and I’ve only seen 5.

Why this deprivation, this denial of what so many Americans consider the primary artistic arena of their lives? (Well, not counting television, of course.) It’s simple. It’s not because I’m Amish and it’s certainly not because I avoid taking my Christian faith into the crucible of the public square. Rather, it’s because I have a distinct preference for books, for social activity, and for quality films — think 1930s and 1940s.

Oh yes, there's one more important factor. I have a strong desire to keep my morals, emotions, and moral convictions unsullied by the cultural propaganda of modernity.

So, yes, I’ve missed the Academy Awards again. And I’ve missed yet another year of going to the movie theater.

If only Hollywood would consider a re-make of "Babe."

Tim Tebow Helping Wishes Come True

Eryn’s W15H (November 5, 2013)

Eryn, a 17-year-old girl battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, wished to go on a date with Tim Tebow! Eryn, her sister and grandmother flew out to Los Angeles for a custom W15H experience. Eryn was able to spend one-on-one time with Tim at practice. However, the real surprise happened later that evening when Tim showed up at dinner in a limousine with flowers! Eryn’s smile and joy were obvious as she exclaimed, “This made my life!” Her W15H experience also included a makeover at a renowned salon in Beverly Hills, shopping at the amazing South Coast Plaza, a day at Disneyland and more. Eryn’s cheerful attitude is truly inspiring! Since her W15H, Eryn has been invited to share about her W15H and her battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Hunter’s W15H (November 12, 2013)

Hunter is a 16-year-old with a fantastic sense of humor and a vast knowledge of Tim’s football career. He has been courageously fighting Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome since he was five days old. Hunter met Tim at one of his workout sessions and was excited to showcase his knowledge as he recited Tim’s University of Florida promise speech verbatim. Hunter enjoyed visiting with Tim and getting numerous special items autographed.  His W15H also included a spectacular hotel stay with views of the Hollywood sign, delicious meals at some of L.A.’s best restaurants, a tour of the NFL Network Studio with NFL Redzone host, Scott Hanson, a tour of Dodger Stadium and a Dodgers replica ring and a full day at Disneyland.  Hunter shared the following after his W15H, “Thanks to Tim Tebow for an awesome day!  It was the best day of my life and I’ll never forget it!”

Read more inspiring reports here and then learn the details of how you can help the various activities of the Tim Tebow Foundation right here.

The Dangers Have Left the Horizon. They're Here.

Must-read articles covering just a few of the crises we're facing as of this frigid Monday morning.

* “Mikheil Saakashvili: Lessons From the Putin Wars” (Matthew Kaminski, Wall Street Journal)

* “The Terms of Our Surrender” (Russ Douthat, New York Times)

* “Syrian Jihadists Are Forcing Christians to Become Dhimmis Under Seventh-Century Rules” (Nina Shea, NRO)

* “Ukraine Just The Latest Example of Obama’s Limited Global Influence” (Michael Crowley, TIME Magazine)

* “Obama and Hagel have surrendered our military strength” (Allen West)

* “How computer-generated fake papers are flooding academia” (Guardian, writer unlisted)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Reviewing Hleb's Omaha Visit

Earlier in the week, I posted a brief account ("Hleb Goes Back to School") of Hleb Yermakou's first day in Omaha. As his time here draws to a close, I'll go ahead and review his hectic but quite productive schedule since then. Indeed, I'm pleased to say that days two through four of Hleb Yermakou’s visit to Omaha proved to be as solid and delightful as the first day he was here. 

Wednesday started off with a breakfast conversation between Hleb, Claire and I at La Peep's restaurant.  Then Hleb checked in via Skype with his wife and kids back in Minsk.  He also talked with one of his colleagues from Encouragement International as they planned next week’s schedule in Los Angeles.

After these things, Hleb and I took off for South High School. Teachers there had been in discussion with Student Venture director Gary Warrick about bringing Hleb in to address a Human Geography class.  That went very well.  Hleb was in fine form – informative, personable and entertaining – and the students really got into the presentation. Hleb's talk was also a neat connection to Gary's ongoing SV chapter there at South.

Next up was a cup of coffee at the Westroads Panera with some profitable conversation about church life, sanctification, the problem that VDPs (Very Draining Persons) pose to ministers, and more.  Hleb also fit in a quick shopping trip to get a dress for his daughter -- on sale!  We then moved on to KCRO where Hleb taped a quick program with Jackie Mahr and then did a live ½ hour show with Greg Vogt and Make Shane. Both were very good.

Wednesday closed with another dessert meeting, this time at our house.  The previous night Quint and Carol Coppi had served as hosts for 9 other people in an exciting meeting that lasted 2½ hours. The meeting Wednesday night had a similar feel -- 9 guests, an interesting, compelling presentation by Hleb which covered a host of topics, and a lot of questions. We went three hours that night!

After such a pace for those first two days, I figured Hleb needed a little extra rest so I let him sleep in Thursday morning while I joined John and Pat at Panera’s for our regular fellowship at 6:30.  But Hleb was ready and raring to go when I picked him up later for the next event, a talk to young adults enrolled in a special GED program. We met Gary at the Boys and Girls Club at 27th and Hamilton for this event.  This was a really active group of about 20 people and they responded well to Hleb’s testimony of conversion to Christianity. 

Hleb's next job was to give an address to the Student Venture group meeting at Central High School Thursday night.  Claire and I had a “When Swing Was King” presentation at Brookstone Meadows at 6:30 but Gary picked him up at our house, grabbed the pizza, and headed down to the club. It was, as we learned later that night, another terrific opportunity for the Lord to excite, inform and stimulate to action young people through Hleb’s ministry.

Day four started with breakfast at the Westroads Panera with Hleb and a brother in Christ who plans to join the team of Encouragement International. I dropped Hleb off for this meeting, briefly spoke with the other guy (a recent transplant from California to Nebraska), and took off to get some other work done.  It turned out that Hleb had a productive time and, at the end of the 90-minute conversation, he was encouraged and excited at the prospect of being ministry partners with this young fellow, a recent graduate of Master's Seminary.

The next speaking engagement took us back to Omaha Christian Academy for a high school world history class.  The teacher had let slip that the students had been studying the Byzantine Empire and he was delighted when Hleb began his talk with insightful comments about that very subject!  The rest of the talk went well too and there were, like the previous classes, plenty of engaging questions. At the end of the talk, Hleb was presented a folder full of thank-you letters from the students. There’s no doubt that Hleb has left a wonderful impression on Omaha Christian Academy with his four visits.

Friday night proved to be something really special. It was another home visit but this one took us towards Blair. And it wasn't a dessert we were looking forward to but a meal. And what a meal! Perly and Sandy Schoville had prepared a very festive, very elaborate, and very American gift for their new Belarusian friend.  Indeed, they served up for Hleb (and 8 others) a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, oyster dressing, rolls, mushroom dressing, asparagus, cranberry sauce, and two kinds of pie!  It was a splendid meal – fun and delicious – but the fellowship with the Schovilles and the friends they had invited along was even more enjoyable.  Thanks so much, guys!

What’s left?  Well, we had planned today (Saturday) to drive Hleb down to Kansas City to meet friends there. But the weather not being the greatest (there and here), we decided to make this a day of rest.  We're listening to music, conversing, reading, dining on chili and orange scones -- all in the warm glow of logs burning on the grate. Very nice.

Tomorrow will be Hleb's last day here in Omaha.  He will be delivering the morning sermon at Faith Bible Church at 10:30, followed by a lunch with friends afterward, and then another home fellowship meeting at 2 o’clock hosted by Allen and Cindy Nelson.  All in all, a very full week and we're so grateful to the Lord for allowing us this time together. We hope and pray that he has made many new and lasting friends while here.